Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Evil GM - Where Do the Walls End?

This is on the topic of railroading having to say, "no". Well its more about when to put up the wall and say, "No" and how it can become disruptive when players get out of control. I personally never like to say "no" to a player when they attempt to do something, instead I'd rather say, "Okay let's try it..".

Now I will do that if its not disruptive to the other players. A good GM has to know how to balance the disruptions so the entire group as a whole will enjoy the experiences. While its the job of the GM to entertain the group, a group should also put some effect into the game to entertain the GM, with excellent decisions, role-play and ways around the dilemmas presented to them.

I had a player in one of my groups, I finally had to deter away from being disruptive. He constantly on every action he had, wanted to do something outlandish or "off the hook" as he called it. Each time he was trying to top the last time. Each time would require a stop in the game play for him to explain out what he wanted to do or some of his actions he wanted to demonstrate that if it can be done by him, it was possible for his character to do it. 

I allowed him to do it for a while, as it was entertaining to everyone and with the groups agreement, we decided that if he could do it in real life he could do it in game with a little bonus.

One example I can think of, while typing this up, was he said he wanted his character to roll off a ledge and go forward over a small box (2 ft height) and when he rolled over the box, pull out two daggers to stab a baddie who had his back turned. So we had him start on the couch and used an ottoman as the box. 

Short of the long, he was able to do it, so we let him make the move with a +2 to hit.

Things like this went on for a while, until the point when he started doing the top the last move more and more until the group started to get annoyed with him.

Finally one night, the group plotted before hand (with out my knowledge, it was out of game I guess via email) to just slaughter this guy's character by fire. 

I saw this coming and stopped the game for a 10 minute break, and then questioned why this was necessary to happen. After a little talk, we come to find out if they just asked him to stop, he would have, as he was only doing it because he thought everyone was having fun with it.

So I just said, let's play and save the outlandish stuff for really special moments.

What do you think?


  1. I always wonder how the solution to a problem someone has with a player can be "Let's kill the character". That's like breaking a child's toy because the child's playing too loud.

    On the other hand, I always admire when someone has the guts to call a break and then to have a talk about what is going wrong. I have a feeling that is something not many players (or GM) get done, because many assume everything is a problem "in the game" and must be solved "in the game". No, not everything. So, I'd say you did the right call there.

    All in all, I guess it is like every other problem in gaming: Say something. I have that impression especially with ridiculous character actions. "But I wanna go there/ do that / try ot!". If I can't block that approach in a sensible way, but cannot allow it for certain reasons either, mostly I just say so. "I like your idea, but you have to trust me: if you do that, we all just lose a terrible amount of time, the others get bored, and you will gain very little. Please trust me, don't do it." This works almost always, costs little time, and the player feels taken seriously.

  2. This sounds less like story railroading, and more like player control. The character isn't hogging the spotlight, the player is. If you have a group that really like to keep the game moving, then a player that continuously stops a game for even small intervals, can be a disruption no matter why the stops are occurring. On the sort of subject you present here, as a GM, my opinion is that anything a player could possibly be capable of has zero bearing on what their character can do. Just because one of my players has excellent deductive reasoning skills and is a trained chef (yes, he is) doesn't mean his half-orc barbarian can solve complex riddles and bake souffles in his downtime. So my solution to this problem would be to reinforce the separation of character vs. player. (Note: This does not advocate the reduction of immersion, but of player/character overlap. The understanding being, that while you don't have any literal idea of what an Elven Bard knows of his lands history, likewise, your Bard has no concept of modern economic theory. Unless maybe your Elven Bard is living in modern day New York for some reason.)

    My players tend to be very out of the box thinkers, but at the same time, they all like working as a group. This makes the actual roleplay of any game a breeze, as everyone is intent on keeping everyone else included. Our problem, is that one or two of them will start nattering on worse than a group elderly women at a knitting group. (Verily). One in particular, will do this at random times, for no obvious reason, and often about random topics. (Someone makes in game comment about how recent changes in town do not bode well. This player suddenly queries if anyone has heard about the changes being made to database functions in MSOffice 365. Yes. It happened.)

    So round-about long story finally coming to the point, keeping your players in line is just another part of keeping a game flowing. And just when we must make an adjudication of rules or a combat situation, we must also be prepared to make real world judgement calls. Or be ready to call players on their behavior. Surprisingly often, players are all too willing to reign in their actions, if they are informed of the detriment they are having. Much as you pointed out.

    1. Yeah, that's why I said.. its more about putting walls up and saying "no"